Do not fear the carb. That is the (unofficial) motto of this Italian joint on 61st and North.
Spring signals growth and regeneration in all things, and I can’t think of anything better, in this spring that doesn’t feel like spring, than the blossoming of a new restaurant. And for Wauwatosa, that’s Ca’Lucchenzo Pastaficio & Enoteca (6030 W. North Ave.), which opens, officially speaking, on Wednesday, May 15 in the building that formerly housed Juniper 61.
Owners Zak and Sarah Baker – who met when they worked years ago at Ristorante Bartolotta – have devoted the last several months to creating their own recreation of the warm, homey little restaurants they’ve visited on trips to Italy.
Together, they make the ideal restaurant pair – Zak is the chef (most recently, exec chef and managing partner of the Pizza Man restaurants), and Sarah, the wine expert (besides working at Pizza Man, she was the wine director/GM for the late c.1880). All the wines at the new restaurant were hand-picked by Sarah. Incidentally, the Bakers shared their Thanksgiving traditions, plus a few of their recipes, in our November 2018 issue.
At Ca’Lucchenzo (named for the couple’s dogs Luca and Enzo), the menu isn’t afraid of carbs. No, no. It embraces them. The biggest section of the menu is devoted to pasta – bucatini cacio with black pepper and romano cheese; tagliatelle with white veal ragu and parmigiano-reggiano; squid ink pasta with calamari, crab, tomato and calabrian chili; and Sardinian gnocchi with lamb ragu, bitter greens, anchovy breadcrumbs and pecorino, among others ($16-$20). The menu also features a risotto (with spring vegetables and parmigiano-reggiano) and creamy polenta, with roasted seasonal veg and lacinato kale ($18 and $17, respectively).
Before you dig into the pasta, there is antipasti, including a fontina fondue-filled risotto fritter with warm frisee salad ($11), grilled Spanish octopus with chickpea and nduja vinaigrette ($14) and braised spring artichokes with cannellini beans, tomato and herbs ($11). And there are snacks, like salume with pickled vegetables, a giant braised meatball in sugo, and house foccacia ($5-$10).
And for desserts, they have fried Venetian semolina doughnuts with grapefruit marmellata, a dark chocolate-hazelnut tart with creme fraiche, and a plate of local and Italian artisan cheeses ($7-$14).
Hours, beginning May 15: Wed-Thurs 5-9 p.m.; Fri-Sat 5-10 p.m.; Sun brunch 10 a.m.-2 p.m.